Weekend Getaway Santa Fe Things to Do
This post was written in partnership with the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.  All opinions and experience details are my own.

Visiting Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary

The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary is a hotspot for some pretty epic marine biodiversity which was my main motivation for visiting the islands. The famously cold water is home to beautiful towering kelp forests where a multitude of species can be found ranging from mammals, like sea lions and whales, to marine invertebrates, like nudibranchs.
Overunder water photo with kelp forest scene

Kelp Forest in Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary

During my time camping on the Channel Islands, I spent a few hours exploring the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS) by kayak and snorkeling. My hope was to encounter a curious harbor seal while snorkeling. But wildlife has their own plans and rather seeing one while snorkeling we saw one resting while we kayaked.

Yellow Kayak pointing towards Channel Islands with Harbor Seal in the foreground in a kelp bed.

Kayaking in Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary

Snorkeling in the CINMS was quite an adventure. Despite it being July, the water was frigid.  I donned my 4/3mm wetsuit, hood, gloves, and neoprene socks to help stay warm. Due to the unusual swell action, the sand was a bit churned up, but there were pockets of great visibility in the kelp beds. My favorite encounter while snorkeling was with a Spanish Shawl nudibranch. It was the first time I saw a nudibranch and I couldn’t believe how incredibly bright this sea creature was. It sat in a bed of various marine plants, swaying back and forth with the current.  The kelp forest towered above as I dove down to investigate the purple nudi in more detail.  On one dive down to inspect the nudibranch, I saw a small octopus as well!

If it weren’t for the cold water temperatures I think I could have spent hours in the water. There are so many coves to explore as well as nooks and crannies to find marine life.  I saw a resting horn shark as well as finding a patch of Black Abalone.  These marine snails are now endangered due to overfishing and other factors, but it was great to see such a large congregation in the CINMS.
Purple and Orange Spanish Shawl Nudibranch on seagrass

Spanish Shawl Nudibranch

Underwater scene with kelp, sea grass, clear blue water with a large rock on the right hand covered in Black Abalone

Black Abalone in a crevice

National Marine Sanctuaries are Entrusted to the American People

The sanctuaries provide an incredible opportunity for us to experience and learn about our marine environments in our oceans and Great Lakes. They are ours to protect and enjoy.
I left the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary with a reinvigorated sense of responsibility to our world’s marine environments and feeling very lucky to have had such unique memories to cherish for the rest of my life. Our marine ecosystems are becoming more fragile everyday and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation is working hard to help educate the world on why and how to protect these incredibly important ecosystems.
Underwater image with clear blue water and tall kelp in a kelp forest

Kelp Forest in Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary

National Marine Sanctuary Foundation Prepares our Future Conservationists

The NMS has many opportunities to discover connections to our natural world. A visit to a sanctuary or monument will spark a curiosity and passion for the ocean and Great Lakes. However, if a visit is not something that is feasible for you, the NMS Foundation partners with various groups, such as schools and zoos, throughout the country to provide learning and training opportunities.

Tips for visiting a National Marine Sanctuary

  • Visit https://marinesanctuary.org/  to learn more about the sanctuaries and the foundation [nofollow link]
  • Figure out what kind of activity you’d like to do (snorkeling, kayaking etc)
  • Have the right gear for the planned activity ready to go, though you might be able to rent equipment at or near the sanctuary
  • Look up local regulations or restrictions that may be in place due to COVID-19

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Daina - Founder of headedanywhere.com

Daina - Founder of headedanywhere.com

Writer, Photographer

Daina is the sunset and ocean obsessed photographer and writer behind underwater and adventure photography blog, Headed Anywhere, featuring photography tips and hacks to simplify your busy life.

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